Sweden is set to construct a 125m-high wooden skyscraper in Stockholm’s southern suburb of Söderstaden, using large glued-together sections of timber for strength. Made from eco-friendly, renewable material, the Söderlänken will reduce carbon emissions by sequestering carbon throughout its life-cycle. The mass timber structure will also reduce greenhouse gases but maintaining a façade that is comparable to concrete and steel buildings in terms of quality and upkeep. Built in accordance with Swedish building codes and regulations, it should be safe from natural disasters, while its lighter weight will enable it to be assembled more quickly, making the project competitively priced.
Sweden to Build Wooden Skyscraper: A Sustainable Milestone
Sweden is making headlines once again – this time for its latest landmark sustainable construction project, a wooden skyscraper. The rising need for sustainable architecture seems to be on everyone’s lips, and this new wooden skyscraper, to be built in Stockholm by 2023, aligns well with the country’s reputation for early adoption of sustainable technologies.
Why a Wooden Skyscraper?
The first question that arises when one hears of a 125m tall wooden tower is, why? Timber building materials certainly aren’t new. We’ve been using them for millennia, but rarely for structures taller than a mid-rise building. Wooden skyscrapers may be the answer to the building industry’s age-old problem: how to design tall buildings that are both sustainable and able to withstand natural disasters?
Global warming has caused major changes in weather patterns around the world, making natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, and fires increasingly prevalent. These conditions cause significant damage to skyscrapers, given the fact that they are generally made of concrete and steel. Wooden skyscrapers, on the other hand, can resist these weather changes and offer several other benefits besides.
Building skyscrapers using wood, which is both eco-friendly and renewable, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, making the buildings carbon-neutral, if not carbon-negative. Unlike steel and concrete, which emit greenhouse gases during manufacture, timber sequesters carbon throughout its natural life cycle. This can have a significant impact on reducing greenhouse gases, which, as we know, are a significant contributor to climate change.
How Will It Be Built?
The building, known as the Söderlänken, will be constructed in Stockholm’s southern suburb of Söderstaden. It is designed by engineer and architect, Anders Berensson. The building will be built using a mass timber structure. Mass timber refers to the use of large timber sections, glued together to form building components, creating a strong structural material.
The building has an estimated cost of SEK 1.7 billion or US$ $183 million. The cost may seem high, but the building’s economic viability is an attractive selling point of this project. Building with timber, which is lighter than traditional steel and concrete, will enable it to be assembled more quickly, reducing construction costs and making it more competitive in terms of the final cost.
Is It Safe?
It is natural to worry when you hear about a 125m tall wooden structure being built. But make no mistake – it is exceptionally safe. Wood is a surprisingly robust building material. For centuries, we’ve been building timber structures, such as barns and houses, using similar techniques to what the engineers and architects of today use. Modern construction technology and engineering practices have allowed for more complex designs that can better cope with fire or earthquake risks.
This isn’t the first time Sweden has built a wooden building of scale, either, with various wooden bridges, houses, and mid-rise buildings having been constructed. This builds on the expertise acquired over many years of experience with modern mass timber construction techniques. Moreover, given the strict building codes and regulations in Sweden, it is impossible to begin construction on a building that might not be safe or poses a threat to human life.
The wooden skyscraper is a sustainable milestone that will undoubtedly be a significant benchmark in the construction industry. It will offer several sustainability aspects that traditional steel and concrete buildings simply cannot match. In addition, the building will provide a sense of relief to those who are anxious about global warming and climate change, as it marks one more step towards a cleaner planet. It is up to all of us to ensure that we continue to innovate and try out new sustainable building materials, and the Söderlänken is a vital step in that direction.
Are there any risks to living in a wooden building?
Wood is highly combustible, which may seem to pose a risk given the height and scale of a wooden skyscraper. However, modern building codes, the application of fire-resistant materials, and sprinkler systems can mitigate such risks.
But aren’t wooden structures vulnerable to natural disasters?
Wooden structures are surprisingly resilient to earthquakes and can fare better than steel or concrete. Hurricanes, floods, and other natural disasters are more challenging issues for timber structures, but modern building codes and practices aim to minimize the risk of such events.
Will it be more expensive to maintain a wooden building?
The cost of maintaining a wooden building is comparable to that of a concrete or steel building. The major factor that determines the cost is the quality and upkeep of the façade and building services.
Does this mean skyscrapers are now going to be made of wood?
While the Söderlänken represents a significant milestone in sustainable design, the idea of a wooden skyscraper is still relatively new, and it remains to be seen whether this will become a trend. However, the benefits of building in timber may make it more attractive for future, eco-conscious buildings.